Hong Kong police arrest 114 over scamming 163 people out of HK$73mil

Online job scams and phone deception tactics used to trick residents into handing over between HK$1,000 and HK$20mil each, police say. — SCMP

Hong Kong police have arrested 114 people on suspicion of swindling 163 residents out of more than HK$73mil (RM43.91mil or US$9.4mil) in an 18-day crackdown on online scams and telephone deception cases.

Inspector Ng Chak-kui of the Wong Tai Sin technology and financial crime squad said on Friday that the suspects, arrested between June 3 and Thursday, included four people from a fraud syndicate who used fake job offers to scam residents.

Ng said the racket posted the adverts on social media platforms, offering non-existent employment opportunities at chains such as restaurants, bakeries and karaoke establishments.

Fraudsters used the names and contact numbers of real employees to make the offers look more credible, he said.

In one situation, scammers impersonated a shop employee and cold-called another chain store to trick staff into revealing the name of their manager.

“Swindlers invented different excuses to coax jobseekers into paying up to tens of thousands of dollars as an administrative fee or surety,” Ng said.

Police began investigating the syndicate after alleged victims alerted the force between March and May.

Inspector Mok Ka-ho of the Wong Tai Sin district crime squad reminded jobseekers to be wary if they were asked to make payments in order to secure a job.

In May, 348 residents fell prey to fake online job offers, the highest number of such cases in a single month and a 60% increase compared with the 217 cases logged in April.

Police said those arrested in the 18-day operation, code-named “Breakmark”, were linked to 73 reports of online scams and telephone deception crimes, in which 163 residents were cheated out of HK$73.5mil (RM44.22mil).

Inspector Ng said the victims, aged from 15 to 78, lost between HK$1,000 (RM601) and HK$20mil (RM12.03mil) each.

“Among the victims are students, engineers and other professionals,” Ng said.

He added a retiree suffered the largest single financial loss at HK$20mil (RM12.03mil) after falling victim to a phone scam where swindlers posed as officials.

In such cases, swindlers usually pose as mainland Chinese security officers and accuse victims of breaking the law. They then ask for money as surety, or make other excuses to get their targets to hand over cash or surrender bank details.

The suspects – 82 men and 32 women – were detained on suspicion of fraud, obtaining property by deception and money laundering.

A retiree suffered the largest single financial loss at HK$20 million after falling victim to a phone scam where swindlers posed as officials. Photo: Shutterstock

Ng said the suspects included holders of stooge accounts that were used to collect money from the victims and launder crime proceeds.

The force reminded the public not to lend or sell their bank accounts to others for transactions of funds from unknown sources as they could face money-laundering charges. The offence is punishable by up to 14 years in jail and a HK$5mil (RM3mil) fine.

Police said further arrests were not ruled out as the investigation was still ongoing.

The city recorded a 42.6% increase in all types of deception cases last year with 39,824 reports filed, up from 27,923 in 2022.

Financial losses from deception cases rose by 89% to HK$9.1bil (RM5.47bil) in 2023, up from HK$4.8bil (RM2.88bil) the previous year. – South China Morning Post


Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!

Next In Tech News

Apple backs $50 million fund to support Bay Area affordable housing
US to award Taiwan's GlobalWafers up to $400 million to boost US semiconductor wafer production
Tokyo airport trials driverless cargo vehicle
China’s ‘rising star’ in chip design software cuts up to half its workforce amid market headwinds
Google-backed AI startup Cropin wants to predict future of food
ByteDance must keep gatekeeper label, EU court says in boost for regulators
US robbery suspect posted photos of himself that helped the cops find him
Amazon advertising portal crashes, disrupting Prime Day sale
The viral ‘apple fungus’ that’s intriguing the Chinese Internet – and scientists
You can now get discounts by haggling with AI chatbots

Others Also Read